Virtual Reality Will Help Car Dealerships
Imagine looking at the interior of a brand new car and the console looks to have the most up to date technology, look nice and the leather looks fresh. You then turn around to look at the seat and there’s good space. You then reach to see what the leather feels like on the steering wheel but when you do that, you don’t feel anything. Why is that? Because you’re sitting inside of a virtual vehicle.
While virtual reality technology in showrooms is only in the beginning, car dealerships think that virtual reality will eventually be how people shop. They don’t know precisely how the virtual showroom will integrate with a traditional dealership per se, however they’re confident that virtual reality is going to be huge for the retail auto industry.
The President of Izmo, Tej Soni, said, “Dealers are trying to shorten the buying circle and take it online. We are part of this discovery.”
Izmo is a company in San Francisco that supplies the 360 degree vehicle footage that you see on auto manufacturer’s websites, so it was clear that they wanted to move towards virtual show rooms.
Their virtual reality technology also includes enabling virtual rest drives which have come primarily from agencies and manufacturers. They aren’t yet working with dealerships as he said, “It is totally new. We don’t know how usage will emerge.” However, Izmo feels that virtual reality is the best way to promote content for future cars. Izmo’s Director of Marketing, David Vespremi, said, “This is designed to reveal aspects of the car that might now be obvious,” he says. “It delivers insights beneath the skin.”
Virtual reality enables a completely immersive experience that is seen with a VR headset or similar device. Virtual reality become more well known in 2014 after Facebook acquired virtual reality company, Oculus, for over $2 billion. Many manufacturers are starting to try out virtual reality or have plans to try in the near future, especially in regards to creating virtual showrooms. Audi already has a virtual showroom in London and the company is planning on opening several additional cities across the world. Cadillac has said that they want some of their smaller dealerships to utilize virtual showrooms instead of big expensive physical locations.
It’s a very intriguing development for the auto world as it could potentially significantly lower costs. Ed Kim, the Vice President of Industry Analysis at AutoPacific (a market research company), said, “But this approach does reduce the ability of the customer to kick the tires, so to speak.” Another factor of course is test driving. AutoPacific completed a study in 2015 and the results showed that 57% of new car buyers said that test driving a car at a dealership is important to them. Kim said, “I don’t know if the virtual-showroom approach will necessarily boost sales on its own,” he says. “But it can serve as a new method of dealer outreach to a certain kind of consumer.”
Another potential issue is more of a legal issue. For example, a person at a mall telling people that they can take a virtual test drive could be out of the state’s franchised dealership laws, unless of course those laws are altered. Pat Hadnagy, the Vice President of Virtual Reality at EVOX Images, said, “Are they doing something that looks like they are acting as a car dealership?” he says. “What is the secret sauce that makes it look like a car dealership?”